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Property charges come in many different forms. They range from simple shoplifting up to organized crime involving millions of dollars.
For property charges generally, the Crown prosecutor will have to prove several elements to obtain a conviction:
1. A theft or deprivation of another person of some form of property
2. That the item was actually stolen
3. That an accused person has no color of right to the property in question
4. Identification - proof beyond a reasonable doubt that they have the right person
Even if the Crown prosecutor can prove all elements of the offence, it may be possible to avoid a criminal record on low end property offences through the Alternative Measures Program, Mental Health Diversion or an Absolute or Conditional Discharge.
The Alternative Measures Program (AMP) has been expanded significantly in response to Covid-19. Charges that were previously considered too serious for Alternative Measures may now be eligible. In order to participate in AMP an accused person will have to take responsibility for the offence. This is not the same as pleading guilty and this also cannot be used against you in Court if AMP is unsuccessful. To successfully complete AMP, an accused person will be required to do community service or make a charitable donation or write an apology letter as examples. AMP is run by probation officers who will determine what each person is required to do to complete AMP. If AMP is successful, then the Crown prosecutor will consider withdrawing the charge. That is the language in the Criminal Code but in practice, I have never seen the Crown prosecutor not withdraw the charge.
Mental Health Diversion (MHD) is another example of a program that as the name suggests diverts people out of the criminal justice system. The idea is that where more minor offences were motivated by mental illness it is more appropriate that a person receives treatment instead of a criminal sanction. The Crown prosecutor and the mental health diversion team determine eligibility. If MHD is successful the Crown prosecutor will consider withdrawing the charge. Again I have never seen the Crown prosecutor not withdraw a charge upon successful completion of MHD.
Absolute and Conditional Discharges are another way that an accused person can avoid receiving a criminal record. A finding of guilt is necessary for either one of these outcomes either by pleading guilty or being found guilty after trial. However, in an absolute discharge instead of entering a conviction on a person's record, the judge enters a discharge. This typically occurs on more minor charges where an accused person has made drastic changes to their life since the charge occurred. Similarly where a judge imposes a conditional discharge and probation the judge does not enter a conviction on the record but this is conditional upon the person abiding by the terms of a probation order for a fixed period of time. In order to qualify for a conditional or absolute discharge it has to be in the accused's best interest and not contrary to the best interests of society.